Police and


In its native France, La Haine reflected real life racial tensions on the streets. Director Matthieu Kassovitz tells Trevor Johnston that there’s two sides to the coin.

‘lf you make an action movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger. you expect maybe peOple will see it. lfyou make a low-budget. black-and-white movie about police brutality. then you hardly expect a hit.‘ With his Number One haircut and surly Gallic

: 3

attitude, 25-year-old writer-director Matthieu

Kassovitz doesn't exactly look pleased that his second movie, La Haine (Hate) won the director's prize at Cannes last May and has since cleared up at the French box office. He does, however, seem to have gained some satisfacrion from the fact that his portrait of boredom. listlessness and bubbling frustration among the kids on a run—down Pan's housing estate has been seen by even that portion of the youthful movie audience that only ever bothers

with American action movies.

‘The people from the estates have seen it. the police have seen it, the govemment has seen it, and everybody has a different opinion. I know a film

won’t change anything on its own, but what it can do

is wam people what's happening out there so they have the chance to talk about it and then maybe do


Kassovitz himself. bored with the instant media celebrity that's surrounded him since the film's

In the line oi the: Vincent Cassel, Said Taghmaoul and

Hubert Koundé In La lialne

release. has long been resigned to the obvious comparisons the film invites ~ ‘They called me the white Spike Lee. but when Spike Lee's first movie came out. they called him the black Woody Allen. ‘There are more good cops than had cops, but it you get arrested by one of the bad ones, you can end up dead. There are people living in that tear all the time, and until it goes away, there’s always the chance they’ll start tiring back.’

Does that make me the white Woody Allen'." His film brings its own quintessentially French

flavour to the familiar terrain ofthe urban youth

chronicle (one brilliant moment celebrates a DJ‘s splicing together of NWA‘s ‘F**k Tha Police' and

Edith Piaf 's ‘Je ne regrette rien'), while balancing the improvisatory feel of a Loach or a Cassavetes and the

potent undertow of oncoming. inevitable disaster familiar from, say. Scorsese's Mean Streets or John

Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood. Heavy comparisons. to be sure. but La Haine really is that good. even

though former actor Kassovitz himself has little time

for film critics in general. ‘The media took the film and talked about it as if it

" was some objet d'art,’ he sighs. ‘Like “Oh, it’s so

powerful" and “Oh. it‘s in black and white". but it was easier for them to talk about the film rather than the problems the film is talking about. They didn’t have to go out to the projects. they just had to go to the movie. It was just a flavour of the month thing.‘ However aggressive this might make him with the

press. Kassovitz still appears to have a passionate

engagement with and concern for the issues the film

" raises. He’s happier to talk about the reasons for

l police violence and the hope for some

' accommodation between the law enforcement agencies and the young people marooned on any number of failed housing projects than he is to linger over the usual run oftechnical trivia and self- contained ego stroking that passes for most filmmakers‘ interviews.

‘This isn’t a movie which says. “Go out and shoot a cop". it's a film that says there's good cops and bad

cops. The problem is that you’ve got the system on

one side and the kids on the other side. Ofeourse. there's a possibility for dialogue. but the police are the authority, so they need to set the agenda. They should be role models. but they're not. There are more good cops than bad cops. but if you get arrested by one of the bad ones, you can end up dead. There are people living in that fear all the time, and until it goes away, there's always the chance they’ll start firing back.‘ Matthieu K assovitz is first feature, Métisse. screens at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Mon 27 and at Edinburgh Film/rouse on Sun 3. while his short, I’ierrot Le Poa. screens with Regarde Les Hommes 'I‘omber (in which he stars) at the Filmhortse on Thurs 30 and the OFF on Fri I . See below for La

Haine review.


The best street movie since Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing is an edgy, black-and-white portrait of lite on a run-down estate on the outside ot Paris. While an opening TV montage of violent clashes between protesters and riot police immediately sets the emotional temperature, the rest ot the storyline settles down to a day in the lite ot three local lads: liubert (llubert ltounde), a black would-be boxer with at least some hopes tor the tutute, Said (Said Taghmaoui), an Arab kid getting by on a string ot petty drug deals, and Vlnz (Vincent Cassel), pretty much the title character (hate personified), a Jew who looks like a skinhead and who carries resentment,

hatred and anger around with him like

i an Ill card. One of their pals lies in hospital alter a police raid. One of the

cops lost his pistol in the tracas. The tension is palpable. As you might guess trom the names

' and the character roles, these actors

live the part. The banter between them f

as the day goes on is both tunny and

f wholly convincing in the way that 25- year-old writer-director Matthieu

* Kassovitz allows their interaction to

touch a lot ot bases - racism, police

brutality, the drugs culture - without it ever seeming like buttons are being

; pushed. The result is urgent,

compelling tilmmaking that totally

j refuses to take a simplistic view ot

i the myriad problems it surveys. The

escalating sense of dread as the tilm goes on - somehow, subtly, we know . the shit is eventually going to hit the 3 tan - is handled with masterly control. 3

it’s hip, it’s sharp and it’s punchy as a l blow to the head. Film ot the year. I

; (Trevor Johnston)

La Iiaine (18) (Matthieu Kassovitz,

. la lialne: ‘punchy as a blow to the head’

France, 1995) Vincent Bessel, iiubert Itounde, Said Taghmaoul. 85 ntlns.

, Subtitles. Front Fri 17. Glasgow: EFT: , Edinburgh: Cameo.

The List l7-30 Nov l995’21